The Hungry Wanderer: 7 Must-Try Eats in Cebu

Though it’s the peak of the Sinulog Festival, we all know there’s more to Cebu than the colorful street parties, wild merrymaking, and of course, everyone’s favorite F-word. (I meant “fatty lechon,” by the way. Why? What did you think it was?)

If you’re in the area, don’t miss the following gustatory jewels found only in the Queen City of the South. If you’re stuck at home, I say book a flight soon and prepare your belly for an experience it won’t soon forget. Just remember to pack some good anti-cholesterol meds, too.

7. Sunburst Chicken

To jumpstart our four-day trip, my friends and I had lunch at Sunburst Chicken (there’s one at Ayala Center). I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve expressed my love for chicken in my previous articles, so trust me when I tell you, Sunburst will easily make it in your personal Top 7 Fried Chicken list once you try it.

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For PHP 203, I was able to enjoy their Prime Cut Thigh Meal. It comes with three chicken thighs, rice, and one of the most delicious slaws I’ve had in a long time. The chicken was uniquely flavorful, I still haven’t found the perfect words to describe it. It tasted great on its own, and even better dunked in the banana ketchup. Although the amount of potato fries was disappointing, the yummy slaw made up for it. Go buy a bucket and bring it to Manila!

6. Casa Verde

No Cebu trip is complete without dining at the famous Casa Verde. They have branches at Ayala Center and IT Park. Usually there would be a long wait list, but the wait to be seated is well worth it. Yes, they’ve recently expanded to Manila, but some say the food quality isn’t as good as it is in the original.

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Try their blockbuster Brian’s Ribs (PHP 233). The meat was tasty, tender, and perfectly cooked. It disintegrates inside your mouth in a matter of seconds. I’m baffled at how low the prices of the dishes were considering the quality and quantity. I sure didn’t expect something that costs no more than PHP 300 to be that huge and filling.

5. La Marea

For dessert, try the brownie cups (around PHP 100/cup) at La Marea located at The Walk, IT Park (Cebu’s BGC of sorts). The brownie cups are the bomb, but it was their Frozen Brazo de Mercedes (PHP 85/slice) that I enjoyed the most.

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4. La Vie Parisienne

We came across La Vie Parisienne only by accident. We were on our way to the Taoist Temple in Beverly Hills Subdivision when we saw a black sign with a giant picture of a red macaron. It led us to a shop that looked, felt, and smelled like a modern deli somewhere in downtown Paris. There were trays upon trays of freshly baked French pastries (that smelled incredible) and shelves filled with bottles of everything from jams to oils to wines. On one end of the counter were countless kinds of cheeses and meats. At least a dozen different flavors of macarons were also on display.

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I recommend going here in the evening so you can best enjoy the romantic setting of the restaurant. With the lights turned on, the place literally looks like it came straight from a scene from Avatar (2009).

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My friends and I ended up having an intimate dinner in their beautiful wine cellar, sharing a bottle of Asti Spumante (PHP 220), the Italian counterpart of champagne (which would cost double to triple the price in Manila), plus three types of cheeses and two types of meat to go with it.  We also tried their croissants (PHP 25 for a small and PHP 45 for a large), which were so soft and addicting. Finally, for dessert, we sampled their macarons (PHP 40 per piece) and promptly understood why they use the sign they do. It did not disappoint.

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3. Larsian Barbecue

I’d have to give my Best Meal I had in Cebu Award to Larsian Barbecue. If you want the authentic Cebuano dining experience, this is the place to be. Larsian is a huge open-air food court that’s open 24/7. Each stall offers almost the exact same food: skewered chicken, hotdogs, stuffed fish, shrimp, and Cebu’s famous chorizo, among others. The price of each stick can be as low as PHP 10, depending on the type of meat. You choose from the array of fresh food turo-turo style, and they cook it for you. The food is best partnered with pusô, and you eat with your bare hands.

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There were five of us, and our bill, which amounted to PHP 700, included five sticks of assorted large chicken parts, ten sticks of chorizo, a pork liempo platter, a heaping bowl of nilagang baka, no less than 20 pieces of pusô, and a 1-liter bottle of soda. That’s around P140 per head. And though this is a little off topic, I think Larsian is probably the best place to mend a broken heart.

2. CnT Lechon vs. 1. Zubuchon

They say CnT serves the best authentic lechon in Cebu, and I couldn’t agree more, at least with the authentic part. The legit Cebu lechon is extremely salty from the crispy red skin to the tender hunks of meat down to very last bone. It’s best eaten with bare hands and dipped in soy sauce and vinegar with chili or no dip at all. A kilo of CnT lechon serves five to six people and costs around PHP 420. It’s best to visit their branches during peak hours because they usually run out of lechon at other times.

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In my opinion, however, the lechon from Zubuchon is better. It’s not as salty as CnT, so some might find Zubuchon bland, but it’s just right for me. Though it’s significantly more expensive at PHP 530/400g, it still has that perfect, crispy skin and really, really good meat. It also doesn’t hurt that their veggie dishes, such as the Eggplant Ensalada and the three-way Seaweed Salad, make excellent sides for all that pork.

Photo by Joanna Ruaro
Photo by Joanna Ruaro

Heck, you’re in Cebu. Live a little. Try both and decide which one to take home!

Bonus: Ibiza Beach Club, Movenpick Resort

If you still have time, visit Movenpick on your last afternoon in Cebu for Ibiza Beach Club’s happy hour. They have a Buy One Take One promo on most of their cocktails (which are really, really good). Don’t worry, you won’t need to pay for an entrance fee. Just lie down on the beach and sip your cold mojito while watching the sun set into the sea. Also, try not to miss your flight.

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Want to share the gustatory adventures you’ve had while criss-crossing the globe? We’d love to hear about it. Send your piece (with pictures!) to hello@pepper.ph and if we like it, we’ll publish it here. Good luck!

36 Responses

  1. I recommend the House of Lechon too. They have a cozy place and excellent customer service.

  2. Will be going to cebu for the first time in august. Will definitely try sunburst. Are there any more restaurants you can recommend at the alaya mall. Thanks from west virginia usa

    1. There’s a lot of good place to dine in Ayala Mall. There’s TGIF, Cafe Georg, and a lot in terraces area.

  3. Sunburst for the win! And you have got to try Everything Yummy’s ribs! I’m not exaggerating when I say, everything really is yummy. They are located in EBLOC2, IT Park.

  4. All are must trys except Movenpick’s Ibiza.

    Must try: Tatang’s boneless lechon belly, Kusina ni Nasing’s Liempo, Balamban Liempo, Alejandro’s Crispy Pata, Ding Qua-Qua’s dimsum, Michaelangelo’s, Jafar’s Shawarma

  5. no steam rice and dimsum from dingquaqua/harbor city?!?!?!65 per order (35 nga nung bata pa ako)

    yes ketchup + Worcestershire for sunburst chicken talaga

    and Zubuchon is so overrated try Tatang’s Lechon or better yet go to Carcar for the best lenchon.

  6. and yes, Tatang’s Lechon, Kan-anan ni Nasing and Matias all located in A.S. Fortuna 🙂

  7. Good list 🙂

    You might also wanna consider trying Porto’s Grill in Escario Central. ILAPUTI in Asiatown IT Park, Surfin’ Ribs and STK ta Bai. 🙂

  8. Casa Verde has its main restaurant in Ramos. The ambiance of the place differs so much from that in Ayala and IT Park. You must also try its Death by Chocolate as your dessert. Try also Golden Cowrie in Salinas, Lahug; AA’s BBQ; STK near the Capitol

  9. If I were to choose my 7 must try restaurants in Cebu, I would pick, Casa
    Verde, Yakski, Tatang’s Crispy Boneless Lechon, La Vie Parisienne/La
    Maison Rose, Michelangelo, Rico’s Lechon and STK Ta Bai 🙂

  10. FYI, Sunburst did not originate in Cebu. It’s originally from Iligan then they branched out here in Davao City before elsewhere. We’ve been eating there ever since I was little.. The take out of Zubu is cheaper I think? My cousin brought some for pasalubong last month, the price was I think around 600 for a kilo.

    1. Sunburst started in Iligan.. first branch in cagayan.. next might be in Cebu and Davao.. They became really popular in Cebu 😀

  11. As someone who loves going to Cebu a lot, seeing Sunburst and La Marea on this list made my heart melt. Nothing beats Sunburst Fried Chicken, and I make it a point to eat it more than once whenever I’m over. La Marea’s Warm Brownie Cup ala Mode is arguably the only dessert I eat. I suggest when you go back to try Banri Noodle House, which is the only authentic Ramen place in Cebu, and Vienna Kaffehaus for some awesome Austrian sausages 😀 OH, and you should definitely try Rico’s lechon. Stories are abundant about how it’s the favorite lechon of certain celebrities and high profile politicians 😉

  12. Zubuchon and CnT shouldn’t even be in this list. The lechons in Carcar, a town one hour away south of the city is THE best!

    And as good as the chicken in sunburst already is, you’re not supposed to dip them in plain ketchup…you’re supposed to mix ketchup and worcestershire sauce together, and trust me, it elevates the meal to another level 🙂


    1. Actually, I did mix my ketchup with Worcestershire, but I thought plain ketchup worked fine, heheh.

      1. ohh. hahaha, to each his own. I really like worcestershire + UFC ketchup though, tastes like barbecue sauce. 🙂

      2. original sauce for sunburst at we cebuanos do it, has always been Del Monte tomato catsup, worcestershire and the hot sauce if you want it hot. The Original restaurant near sto nino serves the best chicken though they taste almost the same with the franchises, it still a bit better…. But sunburst has changed a whole lot now. It used to be a fine dining resto where when you enter the smell of their chicken was heaven. It’s just not like before anymore… but still not bad (though it’s a long way off from the old recipe).

      3. oh well, to each his own. Although me thinks worcestershire + UFC ketchup tastes like barbecue sauce, which I really like. 🙂

  13. Wow the boulangerie and the cellar look really amazing. That’s the thing about going on a food trip in the province. The food is soooooo cheap and so worth the buck you won’t be sad when you part with your hard-earned money.

    1. lol. you do realize that cebu is a city too, right? or at least where most(if not all) of those mentioned places are in.

    1. I was just about to comment this, too! Rico’s spicy lechon has become our go-to celebration lechon in our family. It is just soooo good, the garlic and lemongrass go so well with the spicy kick. My favorite part of the lechon though, the ribs, tend to be deadly because that’s where all the chili tends to be.

  14. The Cebu lechon thing really is more of taste preference. I tried both CnT and Zubuchon and like you said, authentic Cebu lechon is more on the salty side. However, I prefer Zubuchon more especially when paired with their Munggo Guisado. Heaven! I’d take home gallons of that stuff if I could.

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